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Kerry relish big Croke Park showdown more than Mayo


By Martin Breheny

Their players had given everything, but Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Stephen Rochford still insisted there was more in them. And they are probably right. It won't come in the area of physical endeavour, which couldn't possibly have been higher in the grim, unpleasant conditions that swirled around Croke Park last Sunday, but in the more refined aspects of the game.

"The six-day turnaround isn't the biggest deal for us. I think there's a lot more in us," said Rochford after watching his side complete their eighth championship game of the season, four of which ended level, with two going to extra-time.

There can be no doubt about their resilience, or indeed their capacity to improve, since there's no similarity between the team that misfired against Galway and came so close to losing to Derry.

Fitzmaurice's take on events was equally interesting. While Mayo had spent much of the summer on a game-per-week rota, Kerry had three outings since June 11, none of which tested them.

"I couldn't put a percentage on it, but a game like that (Mayo) is invaluable because, regardless of what you do in training, which we do as intensely as we possibly can, you can't replicate that kind of championship do-or-die stuff," said Fitzmaurice.

It's a valid point. Clare, Cork and Galway merely tickled Kerry's competitive nerve; the latter two coming nowhere near the heights expected from counties of their stature.

Kerry won as they pleased and, while it took them all the way to the semi-final, it also left them ill-prepared for the power surge they were about to encounter.

Mayo's superior match-conditioning was hugely significant. Their reaction times were quicker, handing them an edge which Kerry never quite clawed back.

Yet, it was Mayo who were in trouble twice near the end; first when they needed Paddy Durcan's point to draw level and later as they watched Bryan Sheehan line up a long-distance free to win the game.

It dropped into Aidan O'Shea's hands (if Kieran Donaghy hadn't been replaced a few minutes earlier the catch would have been a whole lot more difficult) in the final action of the game.

O'Shea's positioning at full-back attracted much of the focus but there were a whole range of oth Derry boosted by return of key players er intriguing dimensions which were just as significant.

Kerry's failure to cut out the supply lines to Andy Moran enabled him to use his craft to amass 1-5 while at the other end sloppy Mayo defensive work cost them two goals.

It will be interesting to see how both sides go about correcting the malfunctions which hit them last week. Even more intriguing will be the plans they devise to hit the opposition with something new.

Replays often take a much different complexion to drawn games, with the Mayo-Roscommon quarter-final being the most recent example. If that happens, Kerry have more scope for improvement.

Mayo gave a more even performance, yet couldn't fully exploit Kerry's problems. The chance may not come again.

Meaning it all points to a Kerry victory after another fierce struggle. Derry boosted by return of key players

Kerry v Mayo, All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay: Croke Park, Today, 3.00pm

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